Moving the DMU to Thornton

Monday 16th March saw the arrival of our Class 108 Derby Diesel multiple unit at our base on NPL. However, many of you may not realise the planning for this started well over twelve months ago, whilst the Midland Railway Centre (MRC) at Butterley were carrying out maintenance work on our behalf.

Early in 2019 we contacted several haulage firms for quotes, to move our DMU from Butterley to Thornton and once all quotes were in, we elected to use Reids Haulage. Simon Reid from Reids promptly visited NPL to view the site and assess the task facing them. It was also important to seek permission from NPL Estates to allow us to keep the two carriages of the DMU on their land, joining the John Fowler Diesel Locomotive and the Gresley Pigeon Carriage.

With the appropriate permission obtained and an acceptable quote, a small team started looking into what work was needed on our site including working out what track was required and how we could source it.


Basically, two 60 feet long track panels were needed, one for each carriage, and luckily, we had recently acquired three short panels, each approximately 30 feet long. These were stored at the side of the line outside Alan Hargreaves' yard, plus nearby there were also two additional lengths of rail of a suitable length.

Arrangements were put in hand to move the three panels and two lengths of rail to our yard and this took place over several weeks with the assistance of Alan Hargreaves Ltd, Richardson Transport and NPL, not to mention one Saturday morning when around ten members physically hauled the lengths of rails around 50 metres using ropes and fence posts as rollers.

The three panels were stacked on top of each other in our yard and the lengths of rail deposited where they were eventually to be used. At the same time, our Permanent Way (PW) team located some concrete sleepers for sale at Ribble Steam, which were duly purchased and brought separately to NPL. This gave the PW team a chance to practice their track skills by assembling the fourth track panel required.


Other Society members, under the leadership of site leader, Geoff Ogden, were also preparing the NPL site, clearing the yard of surplus material and upgrading a building known as the "barn" which will be used as a workshop area for carrying out restoration work on parts removed from the DMU.

Work had continued at Butterley throughout most of 2019 on the M Exam for the DMU, and regular visits were made to check on the progress being made and discuss any issues. Finally, late in 2019 the Executive Committee decided that the time was right to move the DMU to Thornton, so that our own members could start working on the restoration themselves and to finish off the remaining tasks in the M Exam.

Reids Haulage were contacted, and a date agreed in March with both them and MRC, for the collection of the DMU and to bring it to its new home.

M51937 parked up on the approach road

Arrival day

So fast forward to Monday 16th March. The two carriages had been collected from MRC Butterley the previous Friday and taken to Reid's yard in Stoke-on-Trent, for storage over the weekend. This allowed an early start on the Monday morning to head up to Thornton.

By 9.00am on the Monday, around a dozen members had gathered at NPL many armed with cameras, eagerly awaiting the DMUs arrival. First to arrive was the Reid's Hiab vehicle which was needed to move the stored track panels in to the required position, and reports were coming in that the two carriages of the DMU had been seen passing Leyland on the M6 at 9.10am, so all looked good for a 10:00 am arrival.

The class 108 arrived just after 10:00am on two low loaders. The first vehicle with DMBS M51937 on board and was parked up on the approach road to North car park ready to come into the yard, and the other vehicle with DTCL M56484 was parked up on Bourne Road. See above photograph.

The Reid's team then came into our yard to assess the job facing them as none of them had visited with Simon Reid, and they soon saw how small the yard was and the restricted access road. On top of this there was an underground gas pipeline which they could not drive over.

M51937 was brought into the yard first and the photograph below shows how Reids used the independent rear steer facility on the low loader to negotiate a very tight entrance. One member remarked that "the low loader was moving sideways like a crab.".

Independent rear steer facility on the low loader

The Hiab vehicle had already moved one of the stored 30 feet panels next to the newly assembled fourth panel to give a 60 feet length, more than sufficient length for one carriage. Next the Hiab added their prefabricated ramp to this, and the low loader reversed up to ramp so that the carriage could be rolled down on to the prepared track section.

However, the correct alignment could not be obtained in the restricted space, and this was solved by reducing the length of the 30 feet panel. This would allow the low loader to line up with the track without impacting the buried gas main.

Fortunately, Committee Member Steve Hornby was on site with his Stihl circular saw to save the day, cutting the panel to the requested length. With the prefabricated ramp back in place and much manoeuvring back and forwards, the low loader was eventually correctly lined up, and everyone thought it would now be plain sailing and M51937 would soon be off loaded.

Gravity Descent

The intention was to simply roll off the carriage using gravity with a winch cable controlling the descent. However, one of the brakes on M51937 was seized. A quick check of the hand brake in the driver's cab found that was off, so it was likely one of the brake blocks had not been released correctly.

Using gravity to roll the carriage off

The offending brake block was soon found, and pins removed to let the brake block hang free. Once this was done M51937 began to be gently rolled down the ramp into position.

There is insufficient room in the yard to couple up the two carriages in their usual two coach formation. As a result, M56484 was to be positioned between M51937 and the Fowler diesel shunter.

The remaining two 30 feet panels were moved into position by the Hiab along with the prefabricated ramp. The second low loader was then manoeuvred into position, with it taking several attempts to get into the required position, again making sure they missed the gas pipeline. See the photograph below.

M56484 manoeuvred into position

Once the low loader was correctly aligned, M56484 behaved itself and rolled down the ramp into position.

The final photograph below shows the yard at the end of a long day, with both DMU carriages on their own lengths of track in the yard, parked alongside the Fowler diesel shunter, on the left, and the Gresley pigeon carriage, to the right.

Both DMU carriages on their own lengths of track in the yard

Nigel Kirkpatrick